Marymount Professor and Student Outfit Child with Special Car

Four-year-old McKenna Card loves to chase her older brother around the driveway, something that didn’t seem possible until a student and professor from Marymount University provided her with a modified toy car. That’s because McKenna suffers from FOXG1 Syndrome, a rare genetic mutation that affects her brain development, making it difficult for her to communicate and move. Her mother said about 150 people in the world have the syndrome.

“The first time we saw McKenna she was completely nonverbal,” said Dr. Skye Donovan, who chairs Marymount’s physical therapy department.

Donovan and Cassidie Watson, a student from Manorville, New York, were observing the little girl so they could make adjustments to the off-the-shelf car. Things changed when they returned after adding a giant red button that McKenna could push to make the car go.

“We put her in it, and she just went for it,” said Watson, who earned her bachelor’s degree in health sciences in the spring and is now in Marymount’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program. “McKenna was laughing and we were kind of shocked because she did it so easily. It was really humbling to know that I could make someone so happy without much effort. It opened my eyes to the possibility of working in pediatrics.”

Donovan was moved to tears.

“These devices can make a huge difference and it was great to have a student see that,” she said. “Something she did for an honors project and a grade had a huge impact on a child. It was also great for me as a faculty member.”

A friend of Donovan’s, Cole Galloway, a pediatric researcher and designer at the University of Delaware, came up with the idea of modifying toy cars to provide mobility to children who have trouble moving on their own. Since then, his GoBabyGo concept has spread across the country.

Donovan said the total cost of McKenna’s car – with modifications – was $120.

Playing with her 5-year-old brother, Ryley, in the driveway of their Fairfax home is just one benefit the car provides McKenna.

“It provides more freedom and independence,” McKenna’s mother, Kasey Card, said. “She can move herself. It’s also nice to have another activity that can keep her entertained.”

The Marymount team connected with McKenna through her physical therapist, Amy O’Malley, at Good Beginnings, where McKenna has received physical therapy since she was seven months old.

“They’re always thinking about what they can be doing,” Kasey Card said. “This is a little out-of-the-box. It’s more about participation and inclusion.”

Kasey said the car’s button reinforces some of the things McKenna is learning at her special education preschool, where she also receives physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. Her therapists are hoping she’ll eventually be able to communicate by answering “yes” or “no” with buttons.

“She’s showing emerging skills,” said Kasey. “She’s slowly learning to crawl, though right now it’s more like knee-hopping and scooting. The car has been a positive experience. The social aspect of it is the biggest thing.”

Overall, McKenna is a healthy, happy child and Kasey Card said she and her husband, Kurt, are grateful for that.

This car is only the beginning for Marymount’s Department of Physical Therapy. Donovan said they have a list of six other clients they plan to help.

“For every child, every car will have to be different to meet their needs,” Donovan said.

Donovan hopes to start a rehabilitative technology club at Marymount and to bring therapists in for workshops.

“Our goal is to teach others how to do this,” Donovan said. “That way many more children can be served.”

McKenna’s family has started a fundraising page for FOXG1 at

Photo Captions:

Photo 1
Kasey Card guides her daughter, McKenna, in the toy car that a Marymount University professor and student modified for her to use.

Photo 2
McKenna Card drives the toy car that was adapted for her use. “It provides more freedom and independence,” said her mother, Kasey Card. “She can move herself. It’s also nice to have another activity that can keep her entertained.”

Photo 3
McKenna Card, 4, is all smiles as she drives her toy car while her mother, Kasey Card, watches. McKenna suffers from FOXG1 Syndrome, a rare genetic mutation that affects her brain development, which makes it difficult for her to communicate and move.